Third Operating Session – CN 403 and 404

Over the past few weeks I have held another solo operating session. This follows the CP operating session I had. I ran CN 404 and then CN 403 through the layout, doing some local switching along the way.

CN 404

On my layout, train CN 404 runs east from Melville, SK to Winnipeg, MB. This train performs local switching in Georgetown, the town that is the main focus of my layout. CN 404 switches the Irving Oil spur and the Manitoba Pool grain elevator, when required.

In this session, CN 404 spotted a tank car at Irving Oil and exchanged grain cars at the Pool elevator.

Please note that I had the train number wrong in the video. In Canada eastbound trains have an even train number and westbound trains have odd numbers.


CN 403

As you might guess, CN 403 on my layout runs from Winnipeg to Melville! The train also does local switching in Georgetown, but only switches the CP interchange track as required. It also switches the Cargill grain elevator in Helene.

I had to split the videos to get them under the 15 minute limit.

In the first video, CN 403 switches Georgetown. It had one car to drop off for CP and picked up three cars.

The second video shows CN 403 working the Cargill elevator.

Thanks for watching!

PS if you want to see the real train CN 404, I happened to catch it in Winnipeg in March.

Ready for Service

Walthers All-Door Boxcars
Walthers All-Door Boxcars

I picked up these two Walthers all-door boxcars at a toy show in Morden, Manitoba. I just had a few steps to go through before they were ready for service.

This kind of car was used for paper service and most were owned by paper companies, such as Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser as seen here. I paid $30 for the pair and I was pleased to have them, as I didn’t have any cars of this type.


Coupler Height Check

First it gets put on the test track to check coupler height.

Coupler height check
Coupler height check

That end was good. I flipped the car around to check the other end.

Coupler height FAIL
Coupler height FAIL

This was a FAIL. The coupler was way too low, with the whisker hitting the plate before it could even couple up. It was also obvious that the coupler itself was too low.

I checked the coupler and there wasn’t much play in the box so the solution was to add some washers between the truck and the car body to raise that end.

Adding washers
Adding washers

It ended up taking two washers before I could get the end raised enough. I also snipped off most of the whisker using side cutters.

Good coupler match
Good coupler match

When you raise one end, you have to check the other end again to ensure it didn’t throw that end off! In this case it was OK.


Weight Check

Now it was time to check the weight of the car to see if it matched NMRA standards.

Car Weight Check
Car Weight Check

5 ounces was about right for the length of the car, so there was nothing to be done here.


Wheel Check

Finally I checked the wheel spacing using an NMRA standards gauge.

Wheel Spacing Check
Wheel Spacing Check

No problems here! There is rarely a problem with wheel spacing on cars, but if there is, the usual fix is to twist one of the two wheels until the spacing is correct.


Finish the Paperwork

I printed up the car cards in Easy Model Railroad Inventory and stuck some destination cards in the pocket, then put the car cards into the appropriate slot.

Car Cards - Check!
Car Cards – Check!


Ready for Service

The last step was to actually put them on the layout, ready for operation. They are on the CN-CP interchange track now and will get picked up by CP 948 on my next operations session.

Ready for service!
Ready for service!

Further reading:

Second Operating Session with Car Cards

After my first operating session with car cards, I made one significant change, then started running some CP trains. Here are a few videos showing the trains.

Train Information Card

Train Information Card from second operating session
Train Information Card from second operating session

I added a train information card to the front of the card packet. This gives the train number, origin and destination of the train, departure time, and switching instructions en route.

I’m not using the maximum cars yet, and the departure time is only used to determine the sequence of trains. At some point I’ll jiggle the times to set up meets in Georgetown.

I’ve seen one problem already – the train number is hidden by the clip. Rev 2 will be better!

The Minnedosa Local

CP 976, aka the Minnedosa Local, was the first to run. The train had GMTX 768, five cars and a caboose, which is about the longest train you can stash in the Minnedosa sub / staging without the head end being visible.

CP 976’s instructions are to proceed west to Brandon, dropping any eastbound cars in the Georgetown siding and picking up any westbound cars from the Georgetown siding. As it happened, the train had two eastbound grain hoppers that it had to drop. There was nothing to pick up so it was a relatively short run.

CP 948

CP 948, the Brandon-Winnipeg (eastbound) train was next. This is the busiest of the four CP trains I have on my layout.

CP 948 runs from Brandon to Winnipeg through Georgetown, and works Georgetown industries while it’s there. The switches to the three CP-based Georgetown industries (warehouse, team track and grain elevator) and the CN-CP interchange track have eastward-facing points, so an eastbound freight can work them easily.

948 was short coming out of Brandon, with only three cars and a caboose behind big MLW CP 4505. They had one BN car for the CN-CP interchange, an eastbound scrap gondola, and a centerbeam flatcar for the team track.

There was lots of work to do in Georgetown. The three boxcars at the warehouse had to come out, the interchange track had two cars and a locomotive to remove and deal with, and the team track had a car that was heading out.

I had to split this into two videos to stay under the 15 minute YouTube limit.

In part 2 they switched the warehouse and put their train back together before continuing on to Winnipeg.

Next Up

The next train is CP 949, the Winnipeg-Brandon train, followed by CP 975, the local going back to Minnedosa. Neither of them have much work in Georgetown so they should be quicker to operate. Read on!

First Operating Session with Car Cards

I did my first operating session on my model train layout with car cards. I took video with my phone and here are the videos. I broke the video in two because it was too long to upload and I wanted to edit out a few bits where I put the phone down to throw switches.

The main reason I wanted to show these videos was to show how I use the car cards I described in the previous post.

Part 1

In part 1 I brought CN 3665 and train into Georgetown and did some switching. The train had a CP locomotive and a car to drop at the CP interchange, a grain car for the UGG elevator in town, and a caboose.

The work done was to service the CP interchange, pull the loaded cars from the UGG grain elevator, and drop the empty grain car (plus two other grain cars that were in the siding) at the UGG elevator.

Part 2

In part 2 I pulled two cars from the Irving Oil siding, and delivered one of those to the CP interchange, then collected up the train and left Georgetown for Winnipeg.


So – what do you think?

Personally I think I will use a tripod arrangement next time so the video isn’t so shaky, and I’ll be able to have two hands free – one for the throttle and one to throw switches and uncouple. I also need to look into a skewer or something similar to uncouple cars. So many things… so little time.


Car Cards and Operations

I recorded a video to talk about the car cards I am trying out for my layout. I am going to use it to run through a trial operations session to see how well it works.

In this video I show the car cards I am using, the card pockets I installed around the layout, and the inserts into the pockets for the destinations. Photos below the video…

Car Card with Pocket
Car Card with Pocket

Here is a completed car card, with a caboose card inserted into the pocket.

These car cards were generated by the Easy Model Railroad Inventory program, a free program. See this Facebook group for a link to download it.

You print several cards per sheet of paper, then cut each card out and fold the bottom up and tape it to make the pocket. The fold lines are printed as part of the card, so it is really easy to put these cards together.

For card holders, I cut the tops off envelopes and staple-gunned them to the edge of my layout. That’ll do for now until I put a fascia on, and at that point I’ll look for a nicer card box. Precision Design Co. makes some very nice and inexpensive laser-cut boxes.

I used Excel to make the inserts for the cards. The inserts show where the card should go. Here’s an example showing an insert “EAST to Toronto”.

Car Cards with Inserts
Car Cards with Inserts

The intent is to use these to route the cars to their destinations. Once they have arrived, the yellow destination tags are removed and a HOLD tag is inserted to show it is to stay there.

Sometime between operation sessions, I’ll replace some of the HOLD tags with destination tags so they’ll get moved in the next session.

These destination tags are commonly called waybills. I am using a very simple system…. maybe too simple.

Some people use “4 cycle waybills” where there are four destinations on a waybill, and after a car arrives at the currently-shown destination, you flip the card over or upside down to show the next destination. The car will end up cycling between those 4 destinations.

This page discusses some other ways to forward cards.

That’s the basic idea… we’ll see how it works in the next post.

Question: What do you use for a car card system, if any?